Nyah, Nyah Nyah

With Indonesian teenage sex abuse victim Manohara Odelia Pinot home safe at last in Jakarta from the travails of her marriage to Tengku Temenggong Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Petra , we are reminded of the outrage expressed by Malaysia's premier newspaper, the New Straits Times, which is owned by the United Malays National Organisation, the country's biggest political party, over the early reports that she was being held captive by the Kelantan prince.

Manohara and her mother have been saturating the airwaves with graphic reports of kidnapping, torture, forced drug injections, sexual abuse, mutilation and other horrific tales and demanding investigations and threatening lawsuits. Below, we reprint in full an editorial that appeared in the April 27 edition of the New Straits Times:

"APOLOGIES -- At the very least -- are called for. Having suffered several days of distressing but perhaps predictable reports in the Indonesian and Singaporean press and on the international wire services, it was the height of grace for Tengku Temenggong Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Petra and his wife Cik Puan Temenggong Manohara, the former Odelia Pinot, to issue not a word in response or protest but simply to appear together at the wedding of a family friend.

"Reports of her torture and torment, as graphically recounted in the regional media, clearly seem greatly exaggerated. While we would dwell no further on the Kelantan royal couple's personal life, beyond hoping their continued happiness together will in time settle whatever unhappiness resides in others close to them, we cannot be so sanguine or hopeful over the erosion of reason apparently afflicting even the professional media these days.

"When an aggrieved party's scandalous allegations are leapt on and gnawed to the bone without even a perfunctory attempt at verification, the damning lapse lies in the notion that a lie is news and ought to be reported as such. For the yellow press to make a meal of this is predictable, and their readership would have it no other way. For respected wire services and leading newspapers to pick up the "story", however, running it under headlines such as "Najib dodges queries on model" in reference to the Malaysian prime minister's refusal to take questions on the subject during his official visit to Jakarta last week, suggests that the much-touted need for the "old" media to learn from the "new" is barking up the wrong tree. When sentiment matters more than fact; when any accusation, no matter how outrageous, is deemed to need response or be held as true, some old-fashioned professionalism in reporting would seem a brave rearguard action in defence of the increasingly quaint notion of getting the story right.

As information and communications technology rolls ever onward, enabling ever more virulent text-message scams, invasions of privacy and scandalous rumour-mongering, along with all the benefits of reach, ubiquity and coolness now so piously upheld by those recognising the ascent of ICT over all previous media, it's appropriate once again to haul out the famous observation of 1970s media guru Marshall McLuhan: 'The medium is the massage [sic].' What really matters is the message, not the medium of its 'massage'. And we could all be doing a lot better in getting our messages straight."